DIONYSIUS PERIEGETES and POMPONIUS MELA Situ orbis description [et alia]

[Geneva], Henri Estienne, 1577


Large 4to, pp. [8], 158, [24], 47, [1], 152. Greek and Roman letter; large printer’s device on title; floriated initials, typographical head-pieces and simple diagrams; very slight browning, light waterstain to outer upper corners of final gatherings. A very good, wide-margined copy in nearly contemporary French vellum; repair to head of spine, small crack to tail of front joint; circular armorial bookplate of John, 3rd Baron Carteret of Hawnes, 1841, on front pastedown; early printed Greek ex libris on label at foot of title.

Accurate edition of the two important geographical texts of antiquity, used for centuries as textbooks on the subject. Dionysius Periegetes (2nd century AC) was a Greek poet, who epitomised in verse the geographical knowledge of his time, exerting great influence over Roman and medieval scholarship through the Latin transpositions of his work made by Avenius and Priscian. Pomponius Mela (died c.45 AD) was the most prominent of Latin geographers, largely employed as an authoritative source by Pliny in the geographical section of his Historia naturalis. Following coastlines, Mela provides a ground-breaking description of Western Europe and British Isles, though less detailed as regards Asia and Africa than his Greek colleagues, especially Strabo. With the help of his brother-in-law, the brilliant humanist Isaac Causabon (1559-1614), Henri Estienne made relevant additions and improvements to previous editions, including his father’s. The volume also includes Aethicus’s Cosmographia, Solinus’s Polyhistor and Eustathius of Thessalonika’s commentaries on Periegetes, as well as a detailed annotations on the Greek text by Estienne himself and other scholars.

The Greek ex libris pasted on title (‘from the [books] of Blancardus’) is a special mark of affection for the book from its owner. It is notoriously difficult to date these printed slips, but the typeface and ageing of paper suggest this label is c. 17th. As the owner was clearly a scholar of the Greek language, the only plausible ‘Blancardus’ is Nikolaas Blankaart (1624-1703), who commonly used the Latin transliteration of his surname. A talented Dutch classicist educated in Leiden under the supervision of Salmasius, Blankaart edited Florus, Curtius Rufus and Arrian along with some dictionaries and repertoires of Byzantine grammarians. He is reported to have drawn maps of Asia, Europe and Africa relying on ancient sources (D. van Hoogstraten, Groot algemeen woorden-boek, II, 1725, p. 269), with this book almost certainly playing a crucial role in the endeavour.

BM STC Fr., Supplement, 29; Adams, D 648; Brunet, II, 729; Graesse, II, 401; Renouard, 145:5; Schreiber, 200.
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